Is your pantry an unorganized mess filled with foods you don’t want to eat? Is it difficult to meal plan because you don’t have pantry staples? This list of minimalist pantry essentials will guide you through clearing out and organizing your messy pantry and stocking your pantry with essential ingredients to prepare healthy meals at home any day of the week.
A well-stocked pantry is a crucial part of any kitchen. And by being intentional with your minimalist pantry, you will have the tools to prepare countless healthy dishes at home with little effort.
The key to a useful minimalist pantry is stocking items you regularly use that provide the building blocks for meals you like most. Instead of stuffing your pantry with random snacks and ingredients you don’t plan to eat.
When you have a minimalist pantry full of items you intend to eat, you’ll save money, time and be the eco-friendly choice because you’ll waste less food.
When I was a personal chef, I saw tons of pantries, and while they were all full, very few had basic ingredients to make healthy meals. So here’s how to build your minimalist pantry with all the essentials you’ll need to cook more confidently, save money, time, and waste less food.
Take everything out of the pantry so you can see what you have all at once.
Throw out or compost any foods that have expired well past their expiration dates or look off.
Be realistic about the food that remains. Will you eat these foods? If not, ask friends or family if they would like them or donate to a local organization.
Give the pantry a wipe down before you add anything back in.
Building Your Minimalist Pantry With Basics
Write down your most frequently used items by thinking of ingredients you use constantly and the meals you prepare over and over. Plan to have multiples of these ingredients to build a small stockpile that will support you for a few weeks. The goal of the stockpile is to have what you need when you need it and to give you the freedom to deviate from your meal plan if you have one.
For example, I prepare tomato sauce once per week, but I make sure to always have at least 4 cans of whole tomatoes in the pantry. This way I don’t have to choose between tomato sauce and chili during the week. I can make both because I have enough of my pantry staples.
Some people may argue this approach isn’t “minimalist”, but I disagree. Minimalism isn’t only about having fewer items in your home, it’s about simplifying. I simplify my grocery shopping schedule considerably by keeping a few extra items of heavily used ingredients in my pantry. Especially since a lot of people are trying to limit their visits to the grocery store right now.
Each time you go to the store make sure you’re topping off your most frequently used items and you will always have food for dinner.
Organizing Your Minimalist Pantry Basics
The king of food organization and storage is the glass jar. Glass jars are typically free if you save them from recycling, are pest-proof, keep foods fresh, and are an eco-friendly option. Another reason glass jars are a good option for organizing is that they are compact, unlike some large plastic containers.
Whichever container you choose make sure it’s clear so you can easily see inside to take a visual inventory when you look in the pantry.
I’m not a fan of organizational labels because it can stop people in their tracks and prevent them from moving forward. Because either they don’t know how to label their containers or because they feel like they need to stick with what the label says rather than reusing jars and containers for whatever they choose at the moment. If you want to label, feel free, but I skip this step because clear jars give me the visual information I need.
Minimalist Pantry Basics List
First, I cannot speak about minimalist pantry basics without expressing my deep love for stove-top pressure cookers. A stove-top pressure cooker is a must-have in your kitchen if you plan on preparing dry beans, creating broths, cooking tough cuts of meat, and making soups.
The Instant Pot gets a lot of attention for its ability to be on the countertop. But a stovetop pressure cooker can get hotter, which means it builds more pressure and cooks faster. A stovetop pressure cooker gives you better chances for even browning, again because of its capacity to get hotter than the Instant Pot. Also, a stove-top pressure cooker doesn’t have electronic parts that can fail with heavy use. Because if your stovetop pressure cooker stops building pressure, you can always use it as a regular pot with a lid.
Here’s a list of minimalist pantry staples to get you started.
Add and replace whichever pantry staples make sense for your cooking style and dietary restrictions. Getting to know your eating and cooking habits is what will make building your pantry a success.
salt, flour, granulated sugar, powdered sugar, honey, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, instant yeast, chocolate chips, vanilla extract, baking chocolate
Dried Beans, Grains & Pasta
white and brown rice, brown lentils, black beans (canned or dried), red beans (canned or dried), chickpeas (canned or dried), oats
red wine vinegar, white vinegar, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, sriracha, hot sauce, yellow mustard, dijon mustard, salsa, ketchup, pickles, bbq sauce, mayo
dried fruit (raisins), peanuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts, crackers
tomatoes, tomato paste, chicken broth, tuna, olives, anchovy paste
garlic, yellow onions, red onion
Fats & Oil
butter, coconut oil, olive oil
bay leaves, cumin, Hungarian paprika, black pepper, cinnamon, garlic powder
Here are a few simple dishes you can make with your new minimalist pantry essentials.
Simple Tomato Sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
Heat olive oil
Sauté garlic for about 30 seconds
Add tomatoes, sugar, salt, and pepper
Simmer for about 15-20 minutes
Easy Lentil Soup
½ cup lentils
2 cloves garlic
4 cups broth or water
2 bay leaves
Heat olive oil
Sauté onion until translucent
Add garlic, carrots, celery, and sauté
After 2 or 3 minutes, add lentils and mix with vegetables
Add liquid and bay leaves
Simmer covered for 15-20 minutes or until lentils are cooked through
Spaghetti with Chickpeas and Tomatoes
1 lb Spaghetti
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 can chickpeas, drained
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
Salt and pepper
Cook spaghetti in salted water
In a separate pan, sauté garlic in olive oil
When the garlic becomes fragrant, add drained can of chickpeas and canned tomatoes
Add salt and pepper to taste
Mix until chickpeas are heated through
Now that your minimalist pantry is set up with essentials you can do the same process with your fridge and freezer.
Remove the expired food and food you’re not eating, wipe it down and take an inventory of the foods and meals you eat the most. From there you’ll have a basic list of refrigerated and frozen foods to pick up from the grocery store each time you go to top up your stockpile.